From the old-school font of the opening credits and the first scenes of the gold-dusted Barcelona streets, to the quiet beauty of Rebecca Hall accompanied by the poignant tune of the Spanish guitar, Vicky Cristina Barcelona was quite pitch-perfect.
Vicky (Rebecca Hall) and Cristina (Scarlett Johannson) are best friends whose personalities are as different as their hair color. Vicky, the attractive brunette, is an academic who is about to be married to a successful Wall Street executive. Grounded, stable and very certain. Cristina, the buxomy blond, on the other hand, is flighty and prone to impulse. While on holiday in Barcelona, the pair was accosted by Juan Antonio (Javier Bardem) , a sexy Spanish painter who invited them on a city tour. Cristina leaped, Vicky balked, but go with Antonio they both did. Throw in Vicky and Antonio making love under the tender Spanish moonlight, Cristina moving into Juan’s homely pad, Vicky’s marriage and the arrival of Antonio’s ex-wife and the love of his life, the terribly talented, tormented and tempestuous Maria Elena (Penelope Cruz)- and there you go, a delightful recipe for a fuision cuisine of complex relationships & out-of-control characters.
Javier Bardem, without that dreadful limp hair last seen in No Country for Old Men (https://aserendipitiouslife.wordpress.com/2008/02/24/sweeney-toddno-country-for-old-men/) is absolutely sizzling hot. The broad frame, those hooded eyes, that deep voice, all add up to a hopeless romantic who is quite irresistible. Rebecca Hall shines- with just one look, she conveys confusion, fear, pain and loneliness. Her acting is assured and understated. The characters are realistic- you may identify with Cristina’s chronic dissatisfaction and her continuous search for an elusive happiness. You may also, like me, find yourself deeply affected by Vicky, so apparently sure of what she wants, yet so easily derailed and deeply hurt by a chance romantic liaison.
If i have to find faults, it would be that the characters are all pretty much stereotypes- intellectual brunettes, silly blondes, exotic yet eccentric artists and dull finance executives. Scarlett Johannson is also a disappointment. She is stuck in a rut, destined to play the role of a beguiling ingenue.
Still, i really enjoyed the film. Woody Allen (his scandalous personal life aside) is a genius. I haven’t seen many of his works, but the few i’ve watched: Everyone Says I Love You, Scoop, Matchpoint and now Vicky Cristina Barcelona are all excellent. This is a wistful gem of a tragi-comedy, full of lust, passion and love. At the end of it all, the characters go back to square one, seemingly unchanged yet somewhat different.